UPDATE: Teen spiraled down over a year
Officer involved in fatal shooting identified; autopsy shows teen robbery suspect was shot in back
Monday, January 28, 2013
Clark County court records show the downward spiral of a 16-year-old home-invasion shooting suspect who was fatally shot in the back late Friday by a Vancouver police officer.
Douglas E. Combs, a sophomore at Hudson's Bay High School, was shot as he reportedly reached for a gun while fleeing from police around 11:30 p.m. Friday in Vancouver's Arnada neighborhood.
He died from gunshot wounds to the back, according to a news release Monday by the Clark County Medical Examiner's Office.
The Vancouver Police Department identified Cpl. Marshall Henderson, 44, as the officer who fired the deadly shots. Henderson, who has been with the department for 15 years, is on paid administrative leave, per the police department's policy.
The Camas Police Department will lead a homicide investigation of Combs' death to "ensure transparency," according to a Vancouver police news release Monday.
"In response to information released by the Clark County Medical Examiner, the city reminds the public that this matter remains an active investigation that has only just begun," said Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp in a prepared statement. "Until the full investigation is completed, it is premature to draw any conclusions as to what occurred from the release of a single, isolated piece of information. The city will not respond to further media inquiries regarding this matter until after the criminal investigation has been completed, and the prosecuting attorney has reviewed the case and issued a decision."
Combs was a suspect in a home invasion and shooting at 1 a.m. Friday at an apartment at 1101 N.E. Minnehaha St. in Hazel Dell. The shooting victim, Bill Toohey, remained in the intensive care unit at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. His condition was not available Monday.
Combs also was suspected of armed robberies of two convenience stores Friday.
Court records show no Clark County criminal record for Combs before last spring.
He was arrested May 29, with two other Hudson's Bay students, for trying pass a counterfeit $20 bill at the school store. Combs and another pupil told police that they found the bill. They gave it to a third student to buy a drink at the store, according to court documents. Teacher Andy Meyer immediately recognized it as counterfeit and reported it to police, according to court documents.
All three students knew the bill was counterfeit, police stated, and they were charged with attempted forgery. Combs also was charged with possession of more than 40 grams of marijuana. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced Aug. 14 to one day in detention, 40 hours of community service, drug and alcohol treatment, and 12 months of probation.
His father, Gary Combs, attended only one of his court hearings, a May 30 first appearance on the marijuana and attempted forgery charges, according to court documents. Combs' mother attended none of the hearings. Gary Combs could not be reached for this story.
Maria Weitz, mother of one of Combs' friends, said Combs' mother, Sonia Gonzalez, lives in Mexico City, Mexico. Weitz said Gary Combs is elderly and has several children. Combs' brother Charly Jose Combs also attends Hudson's Bay, Weitz said.
Combs' brother Jason Combs of Vancouver was present at Combs' Aug. 14 sentencing. Clark County Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis stipulated that Combs must live at his brother's apartment at 6027 N.E. 10th Ave. as a condition of his probation. No one at that apartment answered the door Monday. Neighbors said they didn't know the family but noted that mostly men lived in the residence.
Combs' residence is about 400 feet from Toohey's apartment in Hazel Dell. It's unclear whether the two knew each other before the alleged home invasion.
On Jan. 15, Combs was arrested on a warrant for violating terms of his probation. He failed to complete drug and alcohol treatment and refused to live at his brother's residence, according to court documents.
He was sentenced Jan. 17 by Court Commissioner Dayann Liebman to nine days' confinement with credit for two days served.
By Jan. 23, he was out of detention and re-enrolled at Hudson's Bay, according to Vancouver School District.
Two days later, he was dead.
He was accused of going on a crime spree Friday, starting with the home invasion and shooting of Toohey at 1 a.m. He also was wanted for a 5:30 a.m. armed robbery at a 7-Eleven convenience store in the 4500 block of Northeast St. Johns Road and a 6:30 p.m. armed robbery of a Shell station convenience store at Andresen Road and Fourth Plain Boulevard.
The night Combs died
Vancouver police and Clark County sheriff's deputies searched for Combs on Friday evening after receiving a tip that he was planning to attend a concert and dance at Pop Culture, an alcohol-free soda store and music venue on Main Street in Vancouver's Uptown Village.
Siera Sheaffer, 18, an employee at Pop Culture, said Combs and his friend, Nehemiah Rudner-Singleton, 16, were the last two people to leave. She asked them if they needed a ride and they said no. Combs joked with her about having his band play at the venue, though he clearly wasn't part of a band, Sheaffer said.
"They seemed like two normal teenagers," she said.
She told the two to leave because she and her co-worker were closing the store.
Officers staked out the business until Combs and Rudner-Singleton left and began walking east on East 20th Street. Officers converged, and Combs began running east on 20th Street. Both suspects were armed, according to a Vancouver police news release Monday.
The shooting occurred in a parking lot near the intersection of 20th and C streets.
Rudner-Singleton also fled, allegedly with a .380 semi-automatic pistol. He was apprehended at C and 20th streets after he collided with a police car, and was arrested on suspicion of unlawful possession of a weapon, according to police reports.
Arnada resident Sue Benson said she saw Combs' body fall after she heard gunshots and looked out a window at her home at 2105 C St. The window faces the parking lot.
"I saw … his body go limp," Benson said. "This struck my heart. I knew it was bad."
She said she has mixed feelings about the shooting.
"I'm sorry it happened to him … My heart is there for the police officer, too," she said. "I'm hoping he has touched hundreds and hundreds of kids to turn their lives around. I'm hoping something good comes of it."
Henderson, the officer who shot Combs, has been involved in two other police shootings, according to The Columbian's archives.
He was cleared of wrongdoing for firing at Anthony Pyle, 38, of Vancouver on Oct. 12, 2010. Pyle had shot his pregnant sister; he killed himself later during a police standoff.
Henderson and three Clark County sheriff's deputies also were investigated for fatally shooting Robert K. Miller, 43, of Orchards during an Oct. 7, 2008, standoff in which Miller indicated he planned to kill his estranged girlfriend and himself. Investigators concluded that Miller fired first.
Henderson, an expert on Latino gangs, received a Distinguished Service Medal in February.
Friends mourn Combs
Weitz said Combs was her son's first friend his freshman year at Hudson's Bay and was frequently at the Weitz home. However, he hadn't visited for about six months, she said.
"He had a lot of good in him," Weitz said. "I honestly just have this feeling that had he had a little bit of guidance, he could have easily gone the other way."
A Facebook memorial page, "RIP Douglas Combs," was created Saturday. Bereaved friends who posted on the page said Combs was inherently a good person who made some bad choices in his young life.
"He could have had potential but someone must have failed him along the way. … Or he just failed himself," wrote Mallory Kathryne Dockery.
Emily Gillespie and Patty Hastings contributed to this report.